St. Raymond nabs NEH award: history books

The book stacks at the St. Raymond Academy for Girls library just got a lot fatter. The school was recently selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities and American Library Association (to receive a bookshelf grant that delivered 17 brand new, hardcover books over. The award is part of the NEH’s “We the People” initiative to strengthen the study of American history.

The books are all historical and fall under one shared theme: “A more perfect union.” This means they each somehow relate to the Civil War, many of them containing a lot on Abraham Lincoln. However, not all are factual textbooks. Some of the books are historical fiction, which school librarian Lourdes Torres says “really brings history to life for these kids.”

The grant is given annually to a number of school libraries all over the country, but director of development Arlene Alegre says that St. Raymond is unique in that there are three schools within one parish, so all three libraries are able to see each others’ collections and borrow books.

St. Raymond is one of the few Catholic schools that has this network. “This is an annual thing the academy applies for, we’ve won it once in the past,” says Alegre, “but we’re always looking out for new collections. This year is special, because these are books that we just don’t have and haven’t really seen.” The collection includes books for every grade level, and some quirky titles like Reginald Rose’s play “Twelve Angry Men” (a special edition that has an introduction by David Mamet) and a historical, first-person novel, “Hitch” by Jeanette Ingold. The collection also comes with, for the first time, two DVDs. One of them is the famous Civil War documentary done by Ken Burns.

“It’s a relatively competitive process because you are against schools from all over the nation,” says Alegre. “I think History teachers are very excited to be a part of this, but especially our principal [Sister Mary Ann D’antonio].”

Ever since the school received these books at the end of April, they’ve been on prominent display in the library. “Kids can come check them out on their own,” says Torres, “but I also make sure the teachers know. Some of them will definitely incorporate one or more of the new books into next year’s curriculum.”

If there any history buffs over at St. Raymond Academy for Girls, they have lucked out.

Reach Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383 or

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